I have followed your commands,
which keep me from following cruel and evil people. (NLT)
Many people have the idea that the Antichrist will be obvious to all from the moment the final seven year countdown kicks in. For those of you that don’t know, there is a passage in the bible, in Daniel 9 – often known as the ’70 weeks prophecy’ – that very strongly suggests that there is a set 7 year period before Jesus’ return during which a number of things have to happen in a certain order. Amongst many evangelicals, this is held as an article faith, although of course, there is a certain amount of interpretation involved. I happen to agree with that basic interpretation. This final seven ‘week’ period is often referred to as ‘the Tribulation’.
However, a large portion of evangelicals who believe this also believe that they – the true church – will not be around for that period because they will have snatched away to heaven in what is called ‘the rapture’ – or more precisely, a ‘Pre-Tribulation rapture’. Numerous feature films, documentaries, books, sermons and the like have been published supporting this belief, a few of them earning their authors huge amounts of money. This is the part that I disagree with. The bible emphatically does NOT teach this, but instead teaches that the church will go through the Tribulation, a position that by the written evidence we have has been held in the church without exception for 1200 years from Jesus, and if we ignore one medieval violent cult leader, actually something like 1700 or more likely 1800 years from Jesus, as I found out when researching my second book ‘Falsifying the Fathers’.
This article won’t be about all the ins and outs of the debate, but it will cover one issue. In most Pre-Tribulationist thinking, the Antichrist rules over the whole world for seven years, and so it should be obvious who he is right from the start, when, according to the prophecy in Daniel, he signs a covenant or treaty with Israel that covers 7 years. So one of their problems is that in any other scenario, such as the ‘Post-Tribulation’ scenario I hold to, how is it that so much of the church will be deceived and not realize who the Antichrist is?
Well, firstly, we have this verse from the Psalms – if you follow God’s commands, it keeps you from following cruel and evil people, like the Antichrist. However, Jesus made it clear that in the last days ‘lawlessness’ or disobedience to God’s commands, will increase, including amongst the church, with the love of many growing cold. In other words, abandonment of God’s standards and laws will bring down barriers and open people up to deception, the associated delusion that Paul warned about in 2 Thessalonians 2. As so much of the church abandons God’s laws on issues such as sexuality, the uniqueness of Christ and the Christian faith, the rise of ‘Chrislam’ and so on, it renders them more and more open to deception that will lead them to follow the cruel and evil person.
But what about the treaty signing? Well, first of all, Scripture never says he is the only one signing the treaty with Israel – and surely any deal with Israel must involve multi-lateral accords, given the utter complexity of the situation around Israel today, regionally and globally. There could be many signing that treaty with Israel. Secondly, for my research for my book ‘Falsifying the Fathers’ I looked at pretty much every reference to the Antichrist and the church in the early church fathers, and to a man they all taught the church would go through the Tribulation and the rule of the Antichrist. So how did they resolve this question? Well, quite a few of them said that at first, the Antichrist would present as humble, gentile, godly, holy and kind and loving. Secondly, a lot of them followed Jesus and Paul in talking about lawlessness in the church and society, one or two of them specifically mentioning swinging, homosexuality and men dressing up in prostitutes or women’s clothes, but a good many also said that much of the church would be deceived, but God would suddenly raise at least some of the church out of the worldliness and idolatry into which they had sunk before the very end.
The other thing is that even though Jesus and Paul both had the prophecy in Daniel about the time period of the treaty signing and the Temple desecration three and a half years later, both of them made the Temple desecration the key point – Jesus doesn’t mention the Antichrist, but Paul does, and the Temple desecration is when his identity is revealed, and presumably the real persecution starts. It could well be at this point that a portion of the church is suddenly restored to faithfulness to God as they recognize the unmistakable actions that designate the Antichrist, but for many others they will be too far gone in deception, will take the mark and so be lost eternally. That is why holiness and fidelity matter so much in the last days, and this is how the church can be deceived by the Antichrist when he signs a treaty with Israel. To avoid that risk, obey the laws of God, don’t abandon them.